Dantonio has built this program on the “chip on our shoulder mentality”, so with U of M getting all the hype on national signing day plays right into that. Michigan always has a top recruiting class, yet we have beaten them seven of the last eight years on the field where it counts. This time next year, it will eight out of nine years!
Michigan State came within one game of reaching the national championship game, but it sure felt a lot farther away in Dallas last week. The Spartans are now faced with the task of replacing a group of veteran leaders while trying to rebound from the 38-0 loss to Alabama in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic.
It’s no doubt the Spartans will have major losses on both the offensive and defensive lines quarterback, and receivers due to graduation. As a result, the question going into next year is can the program continue to keep climbing higher and build on what Coach Mark Dantonio has started in East Lansing.
True, this group of seniors won more games than any class in the history of the program and they will be missed. However, the cupboard is not depleted. Depth was a major strength of this team and a lot of underclassmen got valuable game experience this year due to injuries. Recruiting has also been very good as well. The 2016 recruiting class is highly ranked, so the talent level will be there for the coaching staff to work with. Spring practice will be interesting, especially the battle at quarterback where Tyler O’Connor, a fifth-year senior and Damian Terry, a fourth-year junior will compete for the job Connor Cook held for the last three years. In addition, redshirt freshman Brian Lewerke and freshman Messiah deWeaver will be in the competition as well. Lewerke looked very good on the scout team and deWeaver comes in highly touted.
Reflecting on the Cotton Bowl, it was apparent that when Alabama brings its “A” game, it will be very tough for anybody to beat them. They have athletes and are very well coached. MSU competed with them for a half, but once Alabama got rolling in the second half, the deal was closed on this game. The interception just before halftime was a killer for Michigan State. A touchdown or even a field goal before the half would have been huge in terms of momentum going into the locker room. Being down 10-7 or 10-3 would have been better than no score at all. When Alabama scored on the opening drive of the second half, the game was over.
The Spartans shouldn’t hang their heads as they were Big 10 champions and made it to the final four of football. There are the whole lot of teams that would trade places in a heartbeat with them on the success of their season. They simply ran into the team (in my opinion) that will be the national champions. We will say goodbye and best wishes to seniors like Cook, Calhoun, J. Allen, Thomas, Heath and Burbridge who end their careers as Spartans. Looking forward to next year, a new quarterback will be in place, either Tyler O’Connor or Damion Terry who both have been in the program for four and three years respectively. The running backs all return; the linebacking group loses Darien Harris, but returns Ed Davis as well as Bullough, Reschke and Frey. The secondary will have to step it up. The receiving corp will lose four player, so others will have to step it up. The team will rest up and start winter conditioning this month to get ready for spring practice, so I guess we will get a look in the spring.
IT HAS LONG been MSU’s misfortune to share a state with the most victorious program in college football history. But in this Year of the Spartan, the Michigan game on Oct. 17, five weeks before Ohio State, especially encapsulated Sparty’s good fortune.
To say it’s been an uphill climb for the Michigan State football program to be where it is today would be an understatement. The program has been a case study for inconsistency since the time Duffy Daugherty retired from coaching. There has been seven head coaches since Duffy and there has never been a level of consistent winning until Dantonio arrived in East Lansing. Gaining any type of respect has been hard because of the history of the program, not to mention the success of the University of Michigan program under Bo Schembechler and the coaches that followed him. In the state of Michigan, they get all the publicity. So, for lifetime Spartan fans such as myself, we are enjoying the success of the Spartan football program and are optimistic that it will continue.